The Easiest Way To Fillet A Fish

This old-school approach is suitable for beginners and can be used on flat or round swimmers.

September 14, 2015
fish

ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOHN BOURGYNE

 

Place a gutted and scaled fish on a stable surface. You’ll want a heavy chef’s knife and a very sharp filleting knife with a thin, flexible 6- to 8-inch blade that allows you to feel the bones as you cut.

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Position the blade of the chef’s knife behind the gills and side fin. Push down on the knife’s spine.

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fish fillet

Rock the knife until it cuts through the bones to the other side. Reserve the head for making fish stock.

fish fillet

Run a fillet knife down the top of the fish from neck to tail, inserting the knife tip 1/2 inch deep into the flesh.

fish fillet

Pull back the top flap of flesh. Make another, deeper cut, splitting the fish all the way to the end of the backbone.

 
 
fish fillet

With the knife flat against the bones, slice from neck to tail, cutting through the rib bones to release the fillet.

fish fillet

Flip the fish over and repeat steps 4, 5, and 6 on the other side, this time working from tail to neck.

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Remove ribs attached to the fillets, slicing just underneath the bones and pulling them away with your other hand.

 
 
fish fillet

Trim away loose skin flaps. If necessary, remove needlelike pin bones by pulling each one out with pliers.

 

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Steve Callahan is the Gulf seafoods buyer for Whole Foods Market.